Joanie Gorman is from Northern California but has lived in the UK for 14 years; she lives in Hampshire with her two children and their dog. She writes for The Green Parent magazine and teaches art part time. You can find her most mornings in the woods nearby hill walking with her funny border terrier, Pippi. Her family call her Nini, she blogs at Nini Makes.

Twig Hairpins

Thanks Kathreen for the invitation, it’s a real treat to guest post on Whipup.net.

I love making objects that serve a purpose and even better, objects made with found or recycled supplies. I also love trees and take daily walks through woods so fallen branches and twigs are one material that I return to time and again. I came upon the idea to make hairpins after finding small, straight twigs that had fallen from fir trees after a windy night. I took a few home, whittled some hairpins and wondered why on earth it never occurred to me to make them before.

Here’s what you need:

  • Twigs or tiny branches (should be fairly straight)
  • Garden clippers or tiny saw
  • A small knife or carving tool for whittling
  • Medium and fine sand paper
  • Optional decorating supplies: wood stain, paint, beads, buttons & clear thread, embroidery thread
  • Wood wax, olive oil or nut oil to nourish the wood

To get started collect a small bundle of twigs that are roughly the diameter of a pencil or chopstick; the length should be a little longer than a pencil or chopstick (about 9inch or 23cm). Give each one a gentle bend to make sure they aren’t too brittle and breakable. Look out for twigs that are fairly straight and not too knobbly. Even if you only want to make one hairpin it’s good to have at least a few sticks to choose from in case the whittling goes awry. If your twigs are wet, leave them indoors in a warm area for a couple of days to dry.

Choose a stick and use a small sharp knife to whittle a point at one end.

After you’ve made the point cut off any knobbly, bumpy parts down the length of the stick then carefully strip off the bark. I used a flat, straight-edged wood engravers tool that worked well but gentle stripping with a knife works too.

When you finish de-knobbling and stripping the stick use garden clippers or a small saw to trim the non-pointed end of your twig to the final length you want your hairpin to be (you may want to try it in your hair first). Next use medium sandpaper to smooth out the rough, trimmed end and any ridges and remaining bumps along the length of the stick, then follow up with the fine sandpaper. If your point is sharp be sure to smooth it out a little so you don’t pierce your head.

As a final step, decorate your twiggy hairpin any way you like. The simplest way is to rub oil in to nourish the wood and bring out the grain. You can even use nut oil by simply rubbing a large nut over the hairpin. Or try painting, staining or wrapping it in embroidery thread, the way you might decorate a walking staff. Beads or buttons are also easy to attach using clear jewelry cord or embroidery thread.

Some wood loving links.

One of my favourite books is Shel Silverstein’s,  The Giving Tree. Though some people dislike it for the selfish child character, I still remember hearing this simple story for the first time when I was very young and feeling an overwhelming love appreciation for trees.

I also enjoy visiting the following artists regularly to see what new and wonderful creations they make with wood: Nanou, aka Les Fabulations on Flickr and Lisa of lil fish studios. Nanou makes curious creatures from fallen branches. She crochets clothes for them, gives them accessories and spins stories for each one too. Lisa is well known for her brilliant, needle-felted objects but I also adore her woodwork. Reading Lisa’s blog about her life and home in the woods reminds me of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, Little House books with my daughter.

Lastly, if you go out and collect more twigs here’s a flowerpot project that’s easy to make.



Today I am very happy to welcome Katie from Duo Fiberworks with her Carving play food tutorial: strawberries. This tutorial is part of her series on carving play food which has been playing over at her blog. So far in the series you can find carrots, cucumbers and scallions – and today Katie shows us how to carve strawberries.

Katie Startzman is a maker whose first creative love is knitting, but she blogs about all her creative pursuits at Duo Fiberworks. Lately she’s been writing about leather sandal making, wood carving, chicken coop building and hand sewing.

I came up with this project because we needed more pretend food for the play kitchen at the preschool cooperative my son attends. Using scraps of lumber, watercolor paints and bits of wool felt, I fashioned sweet and sturdy play food. I know some people are intimidated by working with wood, but I am also a beginner wood carver. If you have a sharp knife and a few hand tools, you can make some simple, lovely berries for your family, give it a try! I will continue to offer tutorials on my blog for carving fruits and vegetables; so far I’ve done scallions, carrots and a cucumber.

-Wood piece – I used a scrap of pine 2×4 that was about 8½” long
-Watercolor paints
-Beeswax or polish
-Green wool felt
-Tacky glue
-It helps to have some real strawberries to look at for reference.

-Knife (see here for more on knives)
-Hand drill with ¼” bit
-Clamp for sawing
-Paint brush
-Knitting needle or something sharp

1. First, cut a piece from the 2×4 that measures 1¼” wide.

It’s much easier to work with a larger piece of wood, so I do as much carving as possible before cutting the individual strawberries off.

2.Begin by removing the corners of the whole piece, so you have a rough cylinder shape.

3. Draw a strawberry shape on the end of the piece and place a mark in the center of the bottom.

4. Taper the end to form a pyramidal shape, and continue refining the whole piece so it’s a cylinder.

5. To shape the top (wide end) of the berry, score a line that marks the top of the berry.

6. Make cuts into the piece that angle towards the line you scored. Work from both sides, so eventually you’ll have a “v” shape cut around the circumference of the piece.

7. I go around the piece several times to make a deeper indentation.

8. If you are just making one or two berries, you can cut off your first berry here.

9. Clean up the edge, by holding the knife at an angle and working across the grain.

10. Remove the end grain roughness by holding the knife almost parallel to the surface and moving smoothly across the top. This is much faster than using sandpaper.

11. I made 7 berries from my piece, so I sketched the shapes on the wood. See how the tops and bottoms are next to each other? It’s easier to do it this way.

12. Then I used the same scoring and carving technique as above to rough out the shapes. It’s kinda tricky, but if you turn the piece frequently, you can remove a lot of material and get your berry shapes mostly formed before cutting.

13. When you have refined the shapes as much as you can, cut the pieces off.

14. Clean up the tops and bottoms by again working across the grain to bevel any sharp edges and removing the end grain. I like a beveled, chunky look, but you can use smaller cuts to make things look more refined.

15. When you are pleased with your shapes, it’s time to move on to painting. Mix a couple shades of red. Apply the paint using plenty of water, but remember the paint will dry lighter and a little will rub off when you add your final finish.

16. Let the pieces dry. Drill a hole in the top of each piece. Apply a light coat of beeswax or polish and buff the excess off. This makes a slightly shiny, smooth finish.

17. Cut a “starburst” shape from felt for each top. Glue securely to the top.

Optional: If you want all the points glued down to the berry top, add a dab of glue to each point and use a sturdy rubber band to hold them in place while drying. Cut a ½” stem. Add glue to the end of a stem. Use a knitting needle to poke the stem down through the felt top and into the hole you drilled.

18. Let the glue dry. Your strawberries are finished, how about some shortcake?


Do you remember these tiny birch bark canoes featured on Miss January’s interview? Lovely Lisa agreed to post a tutorial on how to make them – so you can make some too. These would make the cutest ornaments or playthings.


love this crafty periodic table wall decor.


thanks Chris for sending in this deer head silhouette – pattern and tutorial available.

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